Quitting or Letting Go? Tall Drink of Nerd [BEST OF FaN]

I chose this as my favorite blog so far for 2011 because it was a cathartic blog for me. My genetic slant toward indecision is on full display here as I battle the demons of finishing a project or abandoning it. After writing this, I decided to move forward with the project, a choice I might still be weighing if I hadn’t discussed it here.

Originally published 03/21/11

Great art often comes out of pain and tumult; Picasso’s Blue Period work, Hemingway’s novels, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. My novel, The Year That Sucked, follows a year of multiple pains, but I need to decide; Could it be great art or am I just beating myself up? The book is driving me crazy, literally. So now I am wavering if the book should stay alive at the cost of my sanity or go into that dusty box of the Almost Finished that lives in the closet.

The first draft of the memoir flowed out of me last November during NaNoWriMo. Aside from the occasional crying spell and self-medication with mid-range scotch, its birth was smooth.

Now, as I work through the second draft, it’s getting a whole lot tougher. The physical manifestations of the stress I had during that sucky year are resurfacing. Today’s moodiness, anxiety, jumpiness and stomach issues will make for funny story some day, but right now just makes my husband glad we have two bathrooms. Do you think Lindsey Buckingham had IBS during that amazing recording session?

It also brings me into a daily confrontation with mortality, often causing a deep depression. While the first draft was a race against the clock and calendar to build a framework of story with a minimal amount of words, it was basically fingers on the keyboard, shooting out recalled facts and situations. The second draft is requiring me to fill out that frame. This means submerging myself into that story, reliving that crap on a sensory level.

My plan was to keep the tone of the novel emotionally honest but humorous and light, hoping that the tone would keep my true emotions at a distance from the subject matter. But I’m realizing that not enough time has passed in the whole equation of tragedy + time = comedy. I’m too close to the subject. It was hard enough to watch 2 pets die, lose our house, lose my job, get burgled and help my Mom through Cancer surgery and sit with Dad through MDS, Leukemia and finally, his death the first time. It really did suck. Reliving it isn’t as bad, by half, as it was in 2009, but I can feel myself lingering in the trauma by lingering in this memoir.

I wanted to muscle through this re-write, I’ve heard that writers often jump ship mid-edit and I do not want to be a quitter! Completing a project is good medicine! When I leave a project half-finished, it makes me feel like a neglectful parent. But I got an eye opener on my last visit to the doctor for stress related issues.  He suggested I might want to consider antidepressants to deal with my anxiety.

Have you ever had that moment where something you’ve known for a while, but haven’t really admitted to, is suddenly brought into focus? The light bulb went on, the fog lifted, the sun came out, lots of other metaphors for realization happened. Working on The Year That Sucked has me mired in dealing with all of the BS that had happened, marinating in sadness, basically living in the past, a really shitty past.

The doctor has discussed how pharmaceuticals would help me hit a reset button and balance those chemicals, caused by stress, that have jumbled my response levels. I don’t cotton to antidepressants. If there is any way I can get back to fine with out them, I’ll do it. While yoga and hiking have been helping me deal with the symptoms, addressing the root of the issue had eluded me. Having a medical professional suggest drugs shook me enough to look deeper.  After some soul searching, and taking up running, I see that I have been dwelling in the past. To be honest, I’m getting kinda tired of gazing at my own navel. Time to concentrate on looking to the future.

Like every other writer, I have another idea I could be working on.  I have a good start on another novel, mostly fiction, which could become my obsession if I go in that direction.

So now I look at my baby, The Year That Sucked, which focuses on the past. For my own sanity, do I set it aside to finish in an easier time (does it ever get easier?) after I have fully regained my health and PMA or do I suck it up and suffer through the symptoms to finish it and then focus on healing? Am I letting go or quitting?

featured image credit: Beinecke Library